18 January 2013
Breaking from its normal structure, Justified’s second episode, “Where’s Waldo,” simply picks up where the previous one left off. The episode replaces Raylan’s usual one-off marshalling story with a continuation of the investigation of the Panamanian diplomat bag found Arlo Givens’ walls in the previous episode. Meanwhile, Boyd’s burgeoning criminal empire continues to face problems and an as-yet unnamed boxer shows up.
The episode starts and finishes with Raylan and his new bar-tending lady friend, and out of this relationship comes the least interesting of the episodes storylines. Raylan’s girlfriend turns out to be married, to a boxer who ambles in and out of the episode. The story is mostly background noise and we should all hope that the impromptu boxing organizers are not this season’s new criminal masterminds. The only questions it really raises are why Raylan’s girlfriend’s marital status is meant to be a dramatic enough reveal to close out the episode, and, frankly who really cares.
Something I did care very much about was Raylan out in the field with his fellow Marshal, Tim, and boss, Art. It’s always fun when the show brings out the other members of the office, and this outing doesn’t disappoint, especially Art, who gets to say lines like “Panamanian diplomat bag” and “marshal stiffy.” Out and about, the Marshals meeting some of the hill-bill-iest hillbillies – there’s a wall-sized confederate flag and lots of gun waving – to date on Justified.
One of my favourite character actors, Beth Grant, makes a brief and amusing appearance, as the mother of the Truths, a clan of Kentuckians who really, really want to keep getting their benefit cheques. The whole caper essentially replaces Raylan’s usual Marshal antics, and ultimately winds up meaning that we won’t be hearing about the ridiculously named Waldo Truth through the rest of the season-long investigation.
Justified frequently returns to stories of people using whatever means necessary (usually criminal) to improve their lots in life, and so fittingly, the Waldo Truth story line ends as it turns out to he was sold out by his wife for money and the relief of being rid of him. As a whole, this season is also putting forth definitively religious version of this story, with the arrival of Billy the Pentecostal preacher, offering salvation to the sinners of Harlan County.
Justified never makes those stories of change easy. Throughout the previous seasons, it seems that in the dark world of Harlan County, change is temporary. Money changes hands to secure a better future, but only for another generation, as few live to profit from their work. Ellen May, previously a minor re-occurring character, is given new depth as the next character attempting to rise above their station.
Instead of backroom deals or cross-country migration, this season depicts the instantaneous, easy second chance of Christian salvation. Of course, it’s Justified and nothing gets to be that easy – despite how genuinely preacher Billy delivers his sermon during one of the best moments of the episode: the showdown between Billy and Boyd.
The two best parts of “Where’s Waldo” are, in fact, two separate showdowns featuring Boyd and very different adversaries. The answer to Boyd’s personal “Panamanian diplomat’s bag” mystery – that is, why he hasn’t been selling as much oxycontin – turns out to be twofold: the new preacher, and previous season antagonist, Wynn Duffy infringing on his territory.
The Billy vs Boyd showdown is exciting from the moment the camera reveals Boyd and his crew at the back of Ellen May’s baptism. Boyd arrives on the scene, ready to remind the viewer of the power of his Southern preacher-like cadence. It doesn’t matter who wins the impromptu preach-off because ultimately Boyd, in his perennially fully buttoned suit, is unflappable.
Boyd is equally cool in his second unexpected showdown, with the return of Wynn Duffy. Duffy, no longer second fiddle to last season’s unhinged Quarles, gets to prove himself as unceremoniously ruthless as always, shooting his own dealer and refusing Boyd’s offer to collaborate. It was exciting to watch Boyd back in his preaching role, as it is equally thrilling to have Duffy’s own insanity back. Duffy steals the show, successfully catching Boyd off – as the preacher was unable to do – by casually mentioning the murder Arlo committed at the end of the previous episode.
Dispensing with the one-off plot works in “Where’s Waldo” because the writers smartly replaced it with a similarly structured set of mysteries which fit within the season’s larger arc, while still resolving by episodes end. Moving along at a quick speed, the episode ultimately serves its purpose of reminding us why we keep coming back to Justified: Boyd’s domineering presence, Raylan slapping the gun out of a 12 year olds hands, and all the other sinners of Harlan County.